Vulnerability management brings structure and precision to your security posture by identifying, prioritizing, addressing, and monitoring vulnerabilities. This helps prevent access and data exploitation by bad actors while supporting your business goals and reducing technical debt.
This begins with an assessment, where you use tools to scan systems for weak points that cybercriminals could exploit. From here, you prioritize and address those issues based on business value and threat impact.
Vulnerabilities are flaws in your computer network that hackers might use to get unauthorized access to sensitive data and cause other problems. Discovering these flaws is a vital part of vulnerability management, which involves using security scanning tools to identify vulnerabilities in your hardware and software.
Often, these weak points are overlooked misconfigurations that give attackers a way into your system. As such, it’s essential to identify and catalog all devices in your environment. This includes cloud-enabled equipment and servers not traditionally protected by on-premises firewalls.
Once you have an inventory of your assets, the next step is to classify them based on their risk and business value. This enables your team to understand and assess each vulnerability’s impact and its likelihood of exploitation. It also helps them decide whether a course of remediation is required. Typically, this involves patching or otherwise addressing the flaw. However, some may require mitigation through alternative means, such as implementing firewall rules or updating third-party software.
Hundreds or even thousands of vulnerabilities will be found during the discovery phase. Prioritizing them based on the severity of the threat is an essential part of vulnerability management. This ensures that the most critical, actively exploited vulnerabilities are addressed first (similar to the “first in, first out” model grocery stores use for milk).
It’s essential to have a thorough vulnerability assessment framework for determining risk. Industry-standard resources can help, but they need more context specific to your organization. This can lead to over- or under-prioritization of vulnerabilities and potentially waste your team’s time on low-risk issues that could have been avoided.
Contextual factors include the asset impact, sensitivity of affected systems and the impact on business operations, the ease of exploitation, whether it’s public or not, and how many assets it affects. These factors can be weighed against your organization’s risk tolerance to determine an effective vulnerability prioritization process.
A vulnerability management program must be able to identify vulnerabilities, prioritize them for remediation, and document the results. This provides an ongoing risk baseline for future assessments and creates proof of value conversations with executives based on understandable metrics.
Vulnerabilities are time bombs that cybercriminals use to steal data, gain unauthorized access to systems, and even cause physical harm to devices and operational technology (OT). This can result in costly legal, financial, public relations, and operational challenges.
Prioritizing which vulnerabilities to remediate first involves weighing a vulnerability’s severity, exploitability, and impact. It’s like deciding which health issues are most important to treat. Remediation can be software patches, configuration adjustments, or hardware replacements. Once remedied, it is essential to monitor your system for new vulnerabilities and ensure that previous fixes remain effective. A good vulnerability management solution can help by continuously scanning and monitoring, alerting you to new threats, and ensuring that previously identified vulnerabilities have been addressed.
Once the remediation process begins, facilities are identified, assessed, and prioritized. The creation is an ongoing effort and can be a significant project for the security team. However, resources must be directed to those vulnerabilities that pose the highest risk to the business. This helps minimize technical debt and ensures that resources are spent on the things that matter most.
Taking a multi-perspective approach and utilizing context to understand risk is essential to get the most value out of vulnerability management. This includes identifying assets, mapping those to vulnerabilities, and assessing the impact that those vulnerabilities have on an organization’s risk profile.
This is where the difference between traditional and risk-based vulnerability management (RBVM) comes into play. RBVM scans and discovers vulnerabilities while also providing information into their severity and threat context, allowing teams to appropriately prioritize them depending on the level of risk they bring to the business.